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Home Arts & Culture Concordia Handbell Choirs Ring in Holiday Season in Winter Performances

Members of the Concordia Handbell Choir gather together at their performance for the Nebraska Capitol Tree Lighting in Lincoln. Photo courtesy of Liz Frakes.

by Jayme Lowe

The Concordia Handbell Choir had two opportunities to perform this past weekend in their annual winter concert and in their inaugural appearance at the Nebraska Capitol Tree Lighting.

On Saturday, Dec. 8, the Concordia Handbell Choir and Handbell Choir II both performed at their winter concert, conducted by Professor Jessica Kite. Handbell Choir II performed first. The 14-member choir has members from freshmen to seniors and includes nine non-music majors. They performed seven pieces.

The first piece, “Procession in Bronze,” began with various members of the choir placed around the room, surrounding the audience with sound. Their second piece, “Bwana Awakariki,” a traditional Swahili melody, was conducted by senior Concordia Handbell Choir member Jonathan Rippe and also featured senior Nathan Klaumann on percussion. The next four pieces were all variations on classic Christmas songs: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” “Ding, Dong, Merrily on High,” and “We Three Kings.”

Throughout these arrangements, the ringers used a variety of techniques, ranging from classic ringing to different types of mallets, all producing different types of sound. Handbell Choir II wrapped up their section of the concert with “Jubilant Celebration.”

Concordia Handbell Choir also has 14 members, five of whom are not majoring in something music-related. They began with a quartet version of “O Danny Boy.” Seniors Rippe, Klaumann, Rachel Dorn, and Caleb Staehr all played multiple bells, adding to the intensity of the piece. The first piece performed by the entire choir, “Prelude on Thaxted” is based on the same tune as “We Praise You and Acknowledge You, O God” from the “Lutheran Service Book.”  The tune is originally from an orchestral suite called “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, specifically the “Jupiter” movement. The handbell choir’s rendition was ethereal and captured the planetary aspect.

“Palladio,” their next piece, was written after the composer, Karl Jenkins, was inspired by the Italian architect Palladio. The piece had repeated motifs and was sharp and precise. The next piece, “Pizzicati,” was a clear audience favorite. As they played, the ringers danced. Bouncing up and down, pirouettes, and an energetic solo from senior Elizabeth Frakes all made for a vibrant performance.

“Pizzicati” was followed up with one of the pieces the choir had performed at Christmas at Concordia, “Prologue and Rhythmic Dance.” The energetic piece featured junior Matthew Goltl and sophomores Charlotte Lines and Emily Thies on percussion, and the ringers had to keep up with several time signature changes. Before the penultimate song of the concert, Kite encouraged the audience to attempt a rhythm that would be done by the choir. Stomping, clapping, and the ringing of invisible bells followed. The choir’s performance went a bit more smoothly than the audience’s attempt. The final piece was “Good Christian Men, Rejoice,” another performance that hearkened back to Christmas at Concordia and featured Goltl on percussion.

The Concordia Handbell Choir did not stop there. On Sunday, Dec. 9, they played at the Nebraska Capitol Tree Lighting ceremony, which was broadcast on the radio and online. They performed several pieces, including “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” in the rotunda of the capitol building.

Upcoming events for the Concordia Handbell Choir include a Handbell Festival at St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Omaha on Feb. 9, 2019.

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